Tee Time for Swingers

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New courses and great stays make for memorable golf vacations in Mexico.

It’s no coincidence that Mexico’s top vacation destinations are also the most generous in golf courses. Each region, of course, offers something different—one only has to picture the desert landscape of Los Cabos and verdant surroundings of Riviera Nayarit—but they all have one thing in common: the ocean is always near. Not only does the presence of the sea offer its own great vistas and wind challenges for golfers, but it also adds another attraction to a great Mexican escape.

Each of Mexico’s great golf destinations has also recently welcomed new golf courses, are expecting more and most convenient of all, has a bouquet of properties growing around them.

The ubiquitous choice among golfers is Los Cabos. Long known as the golf mecca in this hemisphere, its wide variety of accommodation options also make this an easy choice. “Los Cabos golf courses are known for their dramatic layouts, holes with dramatic views of the desert, mountains and sea, and an emphasis on shot-making ability through arroyos and sculpted fairways,” explains Marisa Gomez, director of sales for the Sheraton Hacienda del Mar.

Among the more recent crop is Puerto Los Cabos, which has the 9-hole Marina Course by Jack Nicklaus and the 9-hole Mission Course by Greg Norman; still in development are 18 more holes. Meanwhile, Quivira Los Cabos will have two Nicklaus-designed courses, with the first 18 holes due for completion in the first half of 2012 and the second 18 the year after that. The Cabo Riviera Marina, an 18-hole Peter Dye Signature golf course (with the option to add nine more), is scheduled for completion late next year.

Then there are the classics, including the Cabo del Sol courses—Ocean and Desert. According to Gomez, there’s one hole that exemplifies the golfing experience in Cabo del Sol. “The 17th hole on the Ocean Course at Cabo del Sol is regarded as one of the greatest par 3s in the world,” says Gomez. “Golfers play their tee shots from a clifftop over the crashing surf to a green perched on a granite rock outcropping with the Sea of Cortez looming in front of and to the right of the green. This is one of the few holes in the world where you actually play over the sea from the tee.”

The Sheraton Hacienda del Mar has an unlimited golf package for a 3-night minimum stay that includes three days of unlimited golf for two at the Cabo del Sol courses—Ocean and Desert—as well as daily buffet breakfast and transfers to and from the courses. Rates start at $445 per room.

mazatlan Often left under the shadow of Los Cabos, Mazatlan is still one of Mexico’s grand golf destinations in the Pacific, with several championship courses that host major tournaments year-round. Best of all, they’re all conveniently located near major area hotels. El Cid Golf and Country Club, for instance, has hosted several Canadian PGA tournaments along its 27 holes, and offers golf clinics and training for all ages. Estrella del Mar, housed within a gated community in Stone Island, offers 18 holes along palm-lined fairways and lovely views of the Pacific Ocean. Then there’s La Marina Golf Course, Mazatlan’s newest, designed by David Fleming. This 18-holer is a focal point of Marina Mazatlan, one of the largest tourism developments in Latin America, which will also see luxury hotels, gourmet restaurants and more.

Clients who want to try their game here can take advantage of the golf package from El Cid Marina Beach Hotel and El Cid Castilla Beach Hotel, which offers access to all courses and starts at roughly $198 pp, per night for a guaranteed Elite All Inclusive Ocean View room with upgraded amenities, all resort meals and snacks (including premium items such as lobster) and roundtrip transportation to and from the airport and to all golf courses. The package also includes an 18-hole round and golf cart at Estrella del Mar or Marina Mazatlan’s course, or unlimited greens fees at El Cid Golf & Country Club.

riviera nayarit Over the past two years, the fastest-growing region in the west has invested in sprucing up some of its courses, including the Flamingos Golf Club. The success of the region in terms of tourism dollars has also brought in new courses, including the 18-hole Greg Norman Signature course at the Litibu development that also houses La Tranquila Punta Mita, a resort that just opened late last year. In Nuevo Vallarta, the 18-hole Nayar Course, operated by Grupo Vidanta Golf, has been revamped by Jack Nicklaus and looks out to both Banderas Bay and the Sierra Madre mountains. Then there’s El Tigre Club de Golf, which is not new, but is definitely a favorite. It has a Von Hagge-designed course with 12 water holes and more than 140 sand traps, and comes with the occasional roar of the Bengal tigers living nearby.